tv Charlie Rose PBS December 12, 2015 12:00am-1:01am PST
>> rose: welcome to the program. tonight, four foreign correspondents working for cnn come to the table to talk about foreign affairs. they are clarissa ward, nick paton walsh, arwa damon and ivan watson. >> right now the other is arabs and muslims, and you see this divide growing bigger and bigger, and it's being amplified, and the refugees are being caught up in it, and people's attitudes are all shifting and changing and i think that's going to have devastating consequences for our future if we're unable to somehow and i think we're all responsible for making this happen as journalists, we need to somehow be able to explain each other to one another. >> rose: that conversation with four cnn correspondents when we continue.
>> rose: funding for "charlie rose" has been provided by: >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide. captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: the syrian war has entered its fifth year and more countries are entangled in the fight against i.s.i.s. journalist remain a key source of information from the battle it does and it remains a dangerous profession. 54 journalists were killed according to the 2015 committee to protect journalists. joining me are four correspondents from cnn and a report from each of them from the field. clarissa ward is based in bonden
covering the syrian war and radicalization of islamists across europe. >> these buses are how most kurds get around listening to songs cheering on the fighters. a female fighter was just 18-year-olds we were accompanied by. many women here are uncovered and the security situation is relatively calm in towns along the turkish border. but the famous syrian hops hospitality is very much in eve. even when we visited fighters on the front line, we were invited to share their lunch. today goat and bread were on the enyou. you can't refuse. >> rose: nick paton walsh covered the war in afghanistan, the killing of osama bin laden and the iraq surge. >> out here in the flat, open ground with i.s.i.s. in the next
village, they still scorn i.s.i.s.'s leaders and welcome help. the french, russian, or american fighters, if they come here to fight, we'll cooperate with them as we're all fighting to clear the air of i.s.i.s. for humidity. i.s.i.s. left their mark. even the mosque littered with mines. the silence here is breathtaking. this is directly the road down to raqqa, and you can just hear the complete absence of human life. there is little in victory left to fight for. >> rose: arwa damon is based in istanbul and covered the iraq war, arab spring and libya. >> this is a very difficult decision. one father said what choice do i have? i can't live in turkey because i
can't afford rent and no one will rent to me anyway. another person -- people are actually in a fairly good mood. they haven't quite registered potentially what this is going to mean. but as i was saying one father i was talking to said i can't afford to live in turkey, the turks won't rent to me, my house in syria aleppo has been destroyed. people are hostile to syrians everywhere. we feel this growing sense of hostility so let us go to europe where we have a chance. >> rose: ivan watson is based in hong kong and previously covered the syrian war and refugee crisis from istanbul. >> these are scenes croatia probably did not anticipate when they opened borders wednesday. mass hysteria as people waiting for government transports.
the crowd breaks through and another country so far whelmedp3 by the human flood. months into this migrant crisis, europe still does not know what to do with all these people. >> rose: i am pleased to have all of these people from cnn sitting at this table. let's start with you. >> yes. >> rose: syria. where are we at this moment? >> well, i think, you know, every time i come back and we have this conversation and i so desperately want to have something positive to report or some sense of momentum in terms of trying to find a longer-term solution to the problem in syria, but from what i see on the ground, we're essentially looking at syria breaking up into a series of smaller areas or fiefdoms. and while there is been some momentum on the diplomatic side or some efforts to get together some of the proxies in this war in these meetings in vienna,
that isn't being matched on the ground by a desire to turn twanders a diplomatic or political solution because i think, right now, all the various parties feel that, with russian support, with american increased support from the kurds, with the saudis sending in more missiles for various islamists groups, every one on the ground feels they can have a decisive military advantage if they stick it out. so you have on the one hand a political effort but it's not moving in tandem with what you're seeing on the ground and, of course, as everyone knows here well, in the middle you have the civilians who are now suffering on a level that i don't think many civilians anywhere have had to suffer before and they are very much desperate for an end to this. >> rose: how many refugees up to now? 3 and a half, 4 h million? >> we've talked 4 million refugees but we don't talk about internally displaced people who are for all intents and purposes
refugees. half of the population of syria hasn't slept in their own bed. >> that number is what's registered. people are assuming the unregistered numbers could be doubled that. >> that was before the summer's refugees, too. >> rose: what impact is russia having? >> the weapons being used, the geopolitical stakes involved, there is a feeling of how much worse can this possibly get. when you saw that clash on the border of turkey shooting down a russian jet, goes to exactly where this proxy war can lead if people don't begin to get a lid on it. it didn't go as bad as you could have expected, but it's scary to see that level of investment because of the arms industry russia has behind it, because of their investment in assad so far and because of what they see for themselves on the world stage. it's domestic consumption. you see some state tv stuff played in russia, it's a so-called tarp in the efficiency
of their weapons and the music used is remarkable propaganda and it's sort of compensating for the fact that ukraine didn't really go the way they actually hoped, and i think that's what's most scary is if syria becomes a place for moscow to reestablish themselves on the world stage. >> rose: are they striking against i.s.i.s. at all? >> no. i don't think people really realize or remember, the assad regime itself never really targeted i.s.i.s. they allowed i.s.i.s. to grow and thrive, when they could have targeted i.s.i.s., but they were too busy bombing their own population for whatever reason it was, or perhaps it was just the logic of wanting, to you know, justify their own official argument that they were fighting international terrorism, they made that a foregone conclusion. if you look at it as sort of a sickening game of chess, which essentially it is, i mean, russia's place and the assad regime's place have been very
strategic in furthering their own causes and arguments in all of it. >> rose: but he is stronger today because to have the airstrikes from much of russia? >> i think he's stronger than he has been in a few years, now. >> i think perhaps short term but longer term, if you're a country with a substantial muslim population, you've already had app passenger plane explode, you've had the turks shoot down one of your fighter planes, i think that the kremlin, much like everybody else who is involved in the proxy war in syria, is playing short-term and there are going to be long-term, unforeseen consequences that could be awful for russia. >> rose: that's what obama suggests. >> and russia struggled for years with its own chechen insurgency and terrible, devastating terrorist acts which you covered first hand. >> it won't go away. the relationship is a little bit strained. at one point i think he said he wasn't going to allow any
federal officials in to his territory. >> rose: clearly assad because of barrel bombs and other things has been a recruiting tool for i.s.i.s. >> the most compelling recruiting tool that i.s.i.s. has and i think this really -- this gets lost. we get so focused on the tunnel vision of radical islam is the problem and we need to tackle radical islam, i.s.i.s. is not just a product of radical islam. it's part of it. i.s.i.s. is a product of the lack of any kind of action on behalf of the international community and the vacuum created by assad's brutalizing of his own civilians for four years. that is the vacuum i.s.i.s. grew and thrived in. it's also a product of geopolitics, of western foreign policy and hangup. to mystify it under the rubric of radical islam is to miss understand the steps that need
to be taken to end a group like i.s.i.s. >> you have boris johnson of london suggesting let's deal with assad and sort things out. >> rose: it's probably what the american position is. >> even some of the syrian revolutionaries who at the start of the protest movement years ago before all the killing, before syria was in ruins who were peacefully calling for assad to step down, even some of them will privately now say it's better to keep this guy there than -- that's the only semblance of any structure left in a piece of syria. and to hear that from those meme who marched into machine gunfire in the original revolution who have been driven out of their country. >> when you lose everything the way a syrian civilian has, when you, first of all, put your heart and your soul into this idea of revolutionizing your own
country, and you've, you know, begun to see this momentum happening elsewhere, when you have the fundamental belief that you can bring about change and you feel as if you've been abandoned on every single level, you will tend to turn toward the only thing you have to hold to in life and that's religion for many people. and then, when every step of the way, the inaction by the international community, the barrel bombing by assad, all that does to do is drive the argument that i.s.i.s. has and make it the perfect recruiting tool. i mean, it is a product of a global, massive, political, humanitarian failure and an inability by mostly western nations and the united states to truly understand the dynamics to have the region because it's phot just syria. it's the iraq dynamic in all of this as well. >> rose: one thing i hear is that because of the american airstrikes and we know the french have come in and the brits have promised to come in -- >> no, they're in now. >> rose: you know that the
arab states have pulled back, that -- of course, they have yemen to focus on. but they've pulled back and you would think it's their fight too. >> it's been a complete strategic failure of that region to grasp the issue. they hope someone from outside will take care of it like the u.s. has done for the past decades and the u.s. is saying, no, this is your generational challenge to some degree. instead they're involved in a proxy war, funneling money and are having their own problems, iran short of cash, saudis don't have jobs, and this i think is the beginning of that broader regional change. >> and i think it's well the lack of unity, you know, when you talk about the syrian open upcigs we talk about all the time, the lack of unity and coherent system, but that is reflected in the region. it's not like the saudis and the jordanians are all sort of on the same page. they're working against each
other, often. >> the people who support the various syrian opposition groups have completely divergent interests. the u.s. is backing the kurds in syria. the turks are backing jihadi arabs and bombing the kurds simultaneously. i mean, it's a complete, complete mess, and nobody has -- i don't think anybody could imagine a way out of this. >> rose: strange bedfellows. you're absolutely right. what's so interesting to me and coming to nick's point about the narrative, is at least russia and iran and assad seem to have all agreed on a narrative and they have a very clear objective. that narrative is they are saving the world from radical islamist lunatics who want to destroy everything. >> rose: -- not fighting them all. >> they don't talk about that narrative. what is the u.s.'s real narrative here? what is the west's real
narrative? what is europe's real narrative? what is the arab's world real narrative? everyone else is struggling to find a coherent narrative they can all agree on. >> rose: is there a moderate syrian force that can be mounted effectively against assad? >> there was one guy we interviewed -- (laughter) >> one guy... he was part of a half million dollar program called caught short and he was very dedicated and smart, but that began to fall down. then there are these loose militia who haven't really quite been adequately vetted or are not quite comfortable with them to name the given uniforms or to take them to foreign countries or train them entirely. more ad hoc on the ground. they tier product of years and years of syrians on the scene and the influence of foreign
money and radicals with a clearer creed. when you're going for a country like raqqa you need sunni syrians at the front and they don't have them. >> what is your definition of raqqa? they're not what we would call moderate, per se, but when you -- >> rose: is al-nusra as powerful as i.s.i.s. in syria? >> no. but they are players and they are parts of the opposition but a part the u.s. doesn't like. >> rose: from qatar and other places. >> yeah. they are pretty smart. they have leadership and funds. >> they're not trying to impose a strict law -- want to smoke? smoke. they won't flog you like i.s.i.s. they understand they need to have to syrians like them, to want to be there. they're a much more syrian movement than i.s.i.s. they learned the lessons of al quaida
and iraq failures where they had the population turn against them. when nusra was establishing itself in the beginning especially 2012, they were trying to position themselves as being the protectors of the people and even syrians uncomfortable with their ideology were not diswelcoming them from their neighborhood because they trusted them to distribute the bread properly and take on the assad regime because at that point in time they were the only force capable of doing it. but when i.s.i.s. appeared they began hemorrhaging their fighters. >> last year, it was remarkable, there was a preps there, and in 2012 it was still quite secular. you get a feeling of a normal, vibrant city. totally different. >> rose: what do you think of what the president said in his speech as somehow making a temperatures in syria? >> i don't think there was anything president obama said in his speech that indicated any
significant change. >> rose: adding some special forces -- >> exactly, adding special forces -- >> rose: more weapons going in, probably. >> well, yes, i think the kurds and the arab-kurdish kohl' coaln or whatever it is we're calling it are not going to do this without getting more weapons. >> rose: let me go to iraq now. >> yes. >> rose: everybody i know and everybody i interview always says, you know, what's se key in iraq is somehow convincing the sunnis to turn against i.s.i.s., and they have been reluctant to do that because of the way the maliki government treated them in the beginning. >> they got burned. by the americans. >> rose: so my question is is that changing? i mean, if, in fact, the key in iraq is being able to have the sunnis joint the fight against -- join the fight against i.s.i.s., is there any evidence of that happening? >> so far we've not seen signs of a second sunni awakening, a
version 2.0, we haven't seen that, and that's what the kurds are hoping for and what they are plan -- the iraqi kurds, now, i'm talking about. but it hasn't happened yet. >> the kurds are suspicious of the sines. we were in sinjar pin the peshmerga kicked out i.s.i.s. and the response on the ground from normal kurdish fighters were -- >> and the other thing is they did get burned the first time around. how will you inspire someone to pick up a gun and risk their life and they don't know what they're fighting for at this stage in iraq. they have been through so much as a population, so much war, killing and violence, they've gotten to a state where psychologically they thought maybe it was over, their country was getting better and it all reversed back on them and they never had nine one they can have trust and faith in and you have to have that. >> do you think it's better with prime minister abadi than
maliki? >> i think abadi has a chance. >> rose: he certainly thinks of himself as being different than maliki. >> he's having to deal with iranian-backed hard liners and militias. >> it's in three different pieces. a sense of baghdad. a line they can't be bothered to fight over. >> it was the scenario that was predicted a decade ago that is coming -- it's starting to exist now de facto. >> rose: what's the presence of iranians both in syria and in iraq? iranians, not shia militia my iranians. >> every month we hear about an iranian general getting killed in syria. >> rose: and a question about
about -- >> there is a lot of pressure. i'm sure they got propping up from their allies but they're not themselves -- >> there was also some discussion and i can't speak to the validity of it that assad was uncomfortable with how much of a role the iranians were playing and sort of-opting this syrian civil war and with thousands of iranians actually fighting on the ground alongside hezbollah and other forces and that's why h he invited russia to participate more actively in the war because he wanted to offset -- >> rose: iran. exactly. i can't speak to the validity of that, this is coming from sources inside syria, but i thought it was an interesting idea that even assad was a little uncomfortable with just how many fighters there were and apparently the iran generals are suspicious of their counterparts
running the show. >> you see them with the different shia militias, they're there with their technology. >> rose: the iranians are. yes, and you're told not to film them. no one's hiding the fact they're there. >> rose: they will say put the camera away. >> they will say do not film over there and if you do film over there -- not pleasant. >> we do know the cost of iran in the last years in treasure and lives of propping up the assad regime and it would be interesting and probably important to know at one point, with oil at these lows, how much it truly crossed that country which has had substantially economic problems. >> rose: which was one of the incentives to make the iran nuclear deal. >> there are problems they're having, dying in large numbers off the radar, hezbollah are
struggling. >> many of the young syrian men we met jumping on the dinghies from turkey were fleeing from syria. >> rose: the border remains open? >> i think it's much tighter. the turks have really tried to -- >> rose: but not closed it entirely? >> legal or illegal crossing? >> rose: illegal. it's better than it was, but there is always a ba way to have get through. turkey's argument is they have a massive border and no one can actually secure -- and to a certain degree no one can secure their entire bored. >> they've never succeeded in decades to close the border from the p.k.k. they were fighting, the kurdish militants. >> rose: what's your read on erdogan now? >> i've covered the election that brought erdogan's party to power. he came to power having --
talking about suffering persecution at the hands of the komalist military system in turkey. >> rose: he was in prison briefly. >> in prison several months for reciting an islamist poem. the irony to see him a decade later locking people up for a cartoon of him in the newspaper or such is -- that is not recognized by erdogan's circle at all. >> rose: he did well in the election. >> edid. he reignited the war, his critics would argue, with the p.k.k. in turkey in order to -- that is what his critics would argue. >> there was the first round of elections over the summer, then we saw things shift, and then they couldn't put together a government, then turkey went to elections again after a period of massive instability and
reigniting the war with the p.k.k. and taking on i.s.i.s. directly and the bombing and then all the of a sudden in ankara and all of a sudden he's done well in the polls because frankly a lot of, too -- and this might have been the strategy behind it, that's what the opponents say -- were terrified at the product of this instability becoming worse and more widespread. >> rose: suppose you guys got a message saying baghdadi wanted to see the western press. >> press conference? >> rose: just say come in. i was in discussion to go visit them probably a year and a half ago and i had a long back and forth. ultimately, as a woman, it was sort of a non-starter, they were never going to let me go. but, at that time, had they decided to let me go, i probably would have gone with the right -- at that time. now, i don't think so, and
that's because the people who i talk to from i.s.i.s., i can see the shift in the way they think, the way they communicate, the way they operate. it's a different ball game. >> rose: how is it different? i don't think you can trust them. i don't think even if you get the guarantee of amman, of security, i don't think you can trust them because they are so susceptible -- they can promise you this and someone on top said she just said something that qur'an-icily is illegal. >> would you interview baghdadi, hypothetically speaking? >> if i knew i would come back with me head. >> rose: i'm interested in what you can and can't do. >> these people have butchered some of our colleagues. it's wratherred self-centered speaking from a perspective of a journalist, but they have executed fellow journalists on camera and distributed that
around the world. what would you say to the memory of our colleagues to then go in -- i understand the journalistic reasoning for interviewing them, but that's quite a betrayal. >> i would say i'm of the school of thought that as deeply unpleasant as these people, are we need to understand them better. we need to understand them better. we need to be communicating because many, many more people are going to be executed in a similarly brutal fashion for no good reason until we can truly understand this better and start to get our arms around it. >> the amount of money now involved in this kidnapping trade, the numbers are insane. >> yeah. >> rose: explain how that works. >> so you might get kidnapped initially. in the past you would get kidnapped by small criminal gangs, opportunists, someone's broth who are thinks it's a great way to make cash. the first is the sale is for a smaller amount of money, but
then as time goes by you end up being contacted by i.s.i.s., you bring larger amount of money, then you have the ransom request which could be in the frame of millions. so the incentivization and the p.r. benefits for i.s.i.s. having another western journalist in their captivity outweighs any kind of rationale you could expect toward a genuine guarantee. you might have security guarantees but every person in the chain just needs someone on the outside for you to disappear. that's why it's so hard to work in syria, the constant shifting sand. >> rose: what can you and can't you do? >> work with the kurds. >> rose: just stay with the kurds. >> i think there are other very militant islamist groups that have a code. i.s.i.s. is too unpredictable. >> even if they have a code you have all the other groups out there that will grab you because they see the value of your sale and some of it might be because they want to go after you and
they do want to see you in pain and help i.s.i.s. get the publicity and part of it is the sheer desperation of the circumstances. >> rose: what's the threat of eyes as you see it from where you work? what is the threat that they pose? >> it's not the -- it's the branding, the virus, how extraordinarily attractive that is to -- >> rose: san bernardino. the fact you can put that idea up on facebook and you're part of a movement. >> what frightens me to add on to that point is also this whole animosity they've managed to capitalize on and create, to a certain degree. this massive fear of the other. right now, "the other" is arabs and muslims, and you see this divide growing bigger and bigger, and it's being amplified, and the refugees are being caught up in it and people's at tiewtdz are all shifting and changing and i think that's going to have
devastating consequences to our future if we're unable to somehow and i think we're all responsible in making this happen as journalists. we need to somehow be able to explain each other to one another and not forget -- >> rose: explain each other to -- >> to one another. we are all fundamentally human and i think our compassion has been lost, our humanity has been lost to a certain degree and we get very wrapped up in this fear. >> at the height of the fear in the u.s. when 9/11 had just happened and the u.s. was traumatized and grieving, no serious politician was calling for stopping all muslims from entering the country and, yet, more than a decade later, that is -- >> rose: the combination of the chain of events and the politicians. only one politician in america is calling for it.
>> and i think you can argue syria, syria's politician. >> the death of 3,000 people in this country did not result in that kind of rhetoric. >> rose: at the same time, we've seen dramatic changes. because of social media and others things, it's much larger and the radicalization process that takes place. >> for years after 9/11, the intelligence services were looking at mosques where there were preachers spreading messages of hate. >> rose: in mosques. in a mosque. but the radicalization that we've seen in europe and other places, these are bedroom jihadis. >> rose: who face the radicalization process. >> it's not happening in a mosque. >> you don't have to do much to qualify. >> and you're being recruited by your friends. you look at -- they're going
from the same neighborhoods. a couple of guys go first, start skyping with them. hey, great, five-star jihad, all of this, and putting together cool facebook names and it's very attractive and it's very understandable. it's not so abstract. jihad used to be more abstract. it went through the mosque and a bunch of men in flowing robes in caves in afghanistan who spoke arabic, it was alien on a certain level. now it's your buddies you grew up with, used to smoke dope and steal cars with and now they're belong blowing things up and have these weapons. i.s.i.s. capitalized on the melees of young men who probably didn't think of themselves necessarily as strongly muslim. >> and i.s.i.s. gives them the sense of identity. >> and i.s.i.s. says you cannot co-exist with nonbelievers.
>> and that's why there is an issue on why everyone is approaching solutions. it's so much more profound than we've been able to deal. with you're dealing with an ideology but also these different factors that have to be addressed to prevent that ideology from winning because right now they are. we don't want to admit it. >> rose: they are, in fact, winning? >> yes. >> rose: and how do you measure winning? >> because we haven't -- and by we, i mean anyone who does not subscribe to i.s.i.s.'s ideology, we have not been able to properly provide the counterargument to these people that would be drawn to i.s.i.s. >> rose: the world of ideas. yes. >> rose: they're winning the world of ideas. >> they are. >> rose: they're offering a more romantic engagement. >> they're fulfilling something that is obviously lacking in these individuals where they don't feel as if they're welcomed by societies in the west. they want to make their mark,
matter b part of a brotherhood. >> rose: a compelling fartive. exactly. also feeding into some of the worst impulses creating the nastiest reactions in western society of racism and islamophobia. >> not helping itself, either, you know, the attitude ward the refugees we're seeing in some countries. >> rose: how does that play? it fuels this notion and this idea that i.s.i.s. has of the west america is against islam and muslim also and th the westd america want to destroy and then when the refugees get to europe's shores, they're desperately hoping finally the nightmare will be over and they will be able to start this new life and they do in some instances being end up treated in their own words as if they're garbage or subhuman, they're stripped of dignity second time going through europe of all places, this feeds into
i.s.i.s.'s idea. >> rose: some say i.s.i.s. would like to see more of an engagement in syria that they want. they want to make this into a war of muslim against the west or islam against the west. >> yes. strengthen the obama policy, actually, is to deny them that. doesn't give us a visceral sense that something is being done to deny them what they want. >> rose: the president spoke to this, they're trying to deny them territory because that feeds their narrative that they're building something create, a caliphate, a state, and you have to by, containing and reducing, you know, you're just taking that narrative away from them. >> and yet they still have huge swaths of territory. >> nests. and they have strategic things they can't do anymore.
>> rose: when do you think the battle to retake mosul will take place? (laughter) >> who's going to fight it? >> rose: the iraqi army, for one. >> strategically it would be the wiser course of action to take so you would have to move your troops toward mosul. >> rose: what do we know about life inside mosul? >> not very much, to be honest. >> rose: anybody coming out? it's hard for people to get out because -- >> they make you leave $1,000 and the deed to your house as a sort of insurance policy that you're going to come back again. >> you need medical permission to leave, you have to have an emergency to be able to leave. that's what people were telling us the last time we were in iraq. >> the fairly to move on mosul is also a function of the political divisions between
iraqi kurdistan and the central government of baghdad. they just can't agree. they're in economic financial disputes over budgets and sharing royal money from iraqi kurdistan to baghdad and the kurds know they can't take mosul alone. it's a predominantly arab city, and the iraqi government probably needs kurdish support because half the iraqi army melted away when mosul fell. >> it would be disaster if they tried to move on mosul now. >> rose: so it's at least several years off? >> you could just starve them out. pmake it hard to cut off the supply lines and eventually they will run out of food. they're not invincible. >> you're not suggesting you starve out the entire population. >> no, i'm not suggesting that. you have ramadi and fallujah
which are less than an hour's drive to baghdad that are still in i.s.i.s.'s hands. >> rose: tell me about the questions you most want to answer as reporters in covering the territories and the people and the events and the conflicts you cover. what are the questions that you most wish you could find answers to? >> well, the most you wish you could find answers to? the questions i think we sometimes don't focus on enough that i want more opportunity to answer, i know arwa does a because we've had this discussion so many times, sit speaks to again trying to put the kibosh on this narrative i.s.i.s. is pushing which is humanizing the other, as arwa said. you know, i hear the discussion between politicians sometimes ability whatever it might be, syrian refugees or radicals and i real there is such a divorce between the discussion going on about these ideas and actual, tangible understanding of these people are human beings, they
laugh, they cry, they have favorite colors, they have favorite foods, and we have not done enough, i don't believe, as journalists to really bring that home. >> and i think to that point, too, it's not what do i want to have answered. it's what are we being asked every day by these people that we can't -- >> rose: are you being asked? why is this happening to us? is the world not seeing what we have been suffering? and if they are seeing what we have been suffering, how can they still allow this to happen to us? are we not human enough? are our lives not worth saving? are our children not worth saving? we get asked those questions every day and i cannot answer them. >> arwa, here's another problem here -- i don't think the u.s. has the power to come in and fix the regional cold war between iran and saudi arabia that is tearing the middle east apart right now. i don't think that the u.s. is this only nip tent power that
can come save all these people. i wish. but, you know, we've seen the limits of u.s. power. >> sure. maybe there are better measures that can be taken. i feel like the priorities after 9/11 when the u.s. was invading and embarking on military adventures in the middle east, a big responsibility was to explain, these are human beings, too. an arab, a muslim is a person, too, but there are local problems, regional problems in this part of the world and it's not the west's fault, necessarily, all of that. >> i really would like that answered, what if in 2012 or 2013 when an intervention in syria wouldn't have been that tricky, would that have stopped it. >> rose: yes, i ask that all the time. >> when the red line was crossed if they actually had gone through -- >> rose: you're talking about the u.s. had gone through with the bombing -- >> even that.
given the experience in libya of regime change there and that syria is a much larger country with a much larger population, why would we think that would end up any better? >> because you can ask the question that was being asked back then of should there be military intervention in syria, what if the question asked was, well, what does syria look like if there isn't intervention? because -->> iraq was falling a. was growing in power in the last two years, there was going to be a vacuum if syria and that was going to eventually be filled. we all went in and talked to activists in the beginning warning to have the radicalization of the revolution. they warned us in 2011, 2012 in the very beginning.
>> rose: they were saying, what, radicals are flowing in here from iraq and other places? >> and that the ideology, people, humans themselves were going to become more radicalized. that notion of tolerance and, you know, forgiving and keeping the nation together. i remember one syrian saying, if you're drowning and you can barely breathe and you are about to go down and you're reaching for someburn and no one's there and then someone leans over and gives you their hand and you look at them and think, i don't like the look of you, but are you not going to take their hand? and that's how he described it, of course, we took their hand. we don't want to. it was the only hand on offer. >> became a magnet. i remember being at half the airport in 2013, kind the beginning of i.s.i.s. and people pouring, it was remarkable kissing the face of taxi driver, egyptians, two kids from the
u.k., going straight to the border. that was the beginning and didn't stop. >> i met libyans who fought in the libyan syrian war on forward toker and just arrived. >> rose: why are all of you driven to these stories? >> for me, it started off personal because i'm arab-american, my mother's syrian, my dad's american. when the war in iraq started, i fell with a foot on each side. we're talking about it now ten years later, explain people to one another. for me, that's kind of the crux of it. i feel an obligation to try to, as best as i can, you know, remind us of who we are and that others are human, too, and we owe it to each other on a very global, moral level to try to help if we can and to try to understand and to have
compassion and caring, even though people might seem like they're far away, they're really not. >> i started because i was curious. i wasn't sure what else i would do if i didn't do it. >> i think curiosity is -- i remember bob simon saying this to me, he was, like, you've got to be curious. if you're not an innately curious person you will burn out on journalism so quickly. you have to have that continuous desire to see different places. i definitely feel what arwa was saying, there are plenty of people a lot smarter than me that know a lot more than i do, but it's being able to combine having knowledge with a topic and having firsthand experience, taking viewers into people's homes and humanizing them and giving them a voice. there is something incredibly exciting about that. it's a rare privilege, and to witness history on occasion. >> i had a dream i read about
and it was an inspiration and i had a dream of being a foreign correspondent in a trench coat with a notebook and ended up, again, getting dragged back into these wars, which after 15-plus years, i'm exhausted and, frankly, kind of traumatized by this. i'll keep going back, i'll keep covering this stuff, but -- >> there is something about the despair of the narrative in syria. a lot of the other stories you cover, you see the end. it just feels -- >> but what i would also have liked to say in the past is this isn't a scary world where there is war. there is a great big world that is rich and beautiful and fun and exciting and tastes good and smells good. >> where is that? (laughter) >> we spend all this time talking about syria. i moved in the last year and a half to east asia and koreans and japanese and chinese, they kind of watch this blood bath in
the middle east and they don't understand it. they don't understand why people would want to kill each other when you can make money and build shopping malls. why would you do that? >> rose: and lost opportunity, too. there are people now who come to this table and say what we need is a martial bland for the middle east to help to provide an alternative narrative. >> you know, i spoke to a kurdish official and i said, why have the kurds, how have they avoted the trap of the arabs and particularly obviously of the syrians and the iraqis after halabja and you lost all these people killed in the most beautiful way? he said, clarissa, we were willing to forego our need for vengeance and instead focused on economic growth, and it was hard because it's human -- >> and don't forget the iraqi kurds in the '90s fought their own civil wars and went through their own power struggles and
slowly mended and they're deeply divided to this day and feuding. >> i think the issue has to come from within the societies. this bizarre process we have where everyone's torn apart from people doing the fighting, it would be lovely to have a solution in the box. but within the groups doing the fighting, they get tired, lose people, run out of juice. this time, someone new comes in and it's, like, who else can come in in syria? >> from the historical perspective, what did it take to end that awful lebanese civil war? >> they had to realize nobody could win. >> there was also all the regional powers made an agreement and then the syrians were pretty much invited in to impose an occasion and be the strong man to force everybody to stop. >> that's not a sustainable solution.
>> no, but it brought an end to the fighting. i'm just using that as an historical example. and lebanon was a much smaller country in conflict compared to the gaping wound that is syria. >> rose: let me talk about afghanistan. are they going to negotiate between the taliban and the afghan government? >> i think it past that point, sadly. i think the talks are stalling. i think the biggest problem is fighting within the taliban. the two factions. >> rose: is there confirmed evidence whether he's alive or not? >> there's an audio message that he's alive. i.s.i.s. is the bigger problem. they're attractive. they have chunks of territory which they didn't have before and i think there is a security collapse in that country we don't want to talk about because afghanistan is so last decade in
american foreign policy. i think pakistan as well is going to be there. >> rose: tell me about pakistan, there is a lot of nuclear weapons. >> it's a bad neighborhood, but pakistan is back from the mess it was in a while back and we have to be so cautious not to wash our hands of the afghans. so much was created about us. we gave them a lot more weapons and money than before we turned up and said it's about time you turned on. ashraf ghani speaks nicely but he's still not running the machine and the fighting the guy he ran the election against. i worry about where that country is headed and i worry about our appetite for assistance and it's already now looking like a very pale version of what we even tried to convince ourselves we're leaving behind. >> rose: what's the status? libya? >> labia's i would say oneplace you might have more luck
squeezing i.s.i.s. in that there are more focused militias. >> but they're in huge areas where they're running training examples with impunity, fighting amongst themselves, and extremists groups are -- instead there is no real government to speak of. it's too divided. there is two governments, in fact. >> rose: how about yemen? i was in yemen in july, and it's amazing how much it's changed since then. i mean, i think this sort of saudi coalition-led effort has definitely started to take a toll on the houthis and they're gaining more territory, but as they gain more territory, it appears that al quaida also gains more territory. i think that yemen, aside from being an abject humanitarian disaster is the sort of -- i think that it's the perfect microcosm for all of the various
regional players who are meddling in this kind of incoherent way that doesn't seem to have an obvious -- you know, like, there is no clear objective or outcome where anyone really seems to benefit. i think it's hurting the gulf as well supporting it. >> everyone's lost at this stage, everybody. >> yeah. it's amazing how yemen is so off the radar. the level of u.s. assistance to the saudis initially, the level of saudi weaponry used there, the humanitarian catastrophe and it seems to be the war people are happy not to spend much time talking about. they'll let the saudis do what they like and influence won't have much impact. >> and who has the band width for all the war? you want to stick your head in the sand. >> a happier story, burma, myanmar -- >> oh, yes. which i had the good fortune
to cover an election there and a possibly peaceful transition of power from decades of military -- >> rose: someone in the military who said, you know, we need a change. >> i think it sounds like the generals that ran the show in myanmar wanted an alternative and have appeared to be willing to take a step back and allow somebody they locked up for years to -- and her party to take over. >> rose: here's what's interesting. we've had this conversation. in this country, there was a pivot to asia which really didn't happen that the obama administration -- and there was also supposed to be a reset with russia which didn't happen either, but the interesting thing about, you know, china with the second largest economy at some point soon will have the largest economy, becoming more aggressively in terms of the region, certainly, and having global ambitions both economically and i think infliewngsly, you know, wanting
their currency to be part of our reserve currency, all those kinds of things, they're not a player at all in the middle east -- >> aren't they smart! they mind their own business! >> what's the advantage to sinking money and treasure into this sinkhole? but as you mention china, china has worried many of its neighbors with, you know, building islands in the south china sea and making territorial claims to the point that a number of the countries that aren't necessarily ideologically or strategically aligned, asia, japan, korea, and countries with serious differences amongst themselves are all worried by the behavior of the chinese in that part of the world, a and the japanese even changed their constitution to remove some of the pacifism from it recently. >> rose: when you think about
the world today, and this is what makes what you do so exciting, south korea is an ally, vietnam is an ally in terms of -- they don't want to use the word containment, but providing an american alternative in asia. that shows you who ur friends are and who i would have imagined at the end of the veem vietnam war. what we see today -- >> when i look at historical cycles and i see the agony of the middle east, i think a little bit back decades, it was southeast asia that was burning, it was southeast asia that was slaughtering itself and being invaded by foreign governments where you had genocide committed in cambodia, and it's almost hard to imagine today that that was happening only a few short decades ago, and that is perhaps my only hope for the middle east is that maybe they can go through that transition.
>> one day it will all be over. but at what cost. >> and perhaps in 1970, it was hard to imagine that tourists would be traveling to vietnam or to cambodia and staying in nice hotels. >> i was traveling there in the '60s. >> rose: thank you all for coming. >> thank you for having us. >> rose: thank you for joining us. see you next time. >> rose: for more about this program and earlier episodes, visit us online at pbs.org and charlierose.com. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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